Udo Noger “No More – No Less”
October 20th – December 4th, 2016
La Jolla, August 22nd, 2016 – Madison Gallery presents German artist Udo Nöger’s solo exhibition, No More – No Less. Nöger works in a minimalist tradition, reducing everything he does “to a point where there is no more, no less”— a statement that captures the delicate balance anchoring his pared-down aesthetic. This quest toward a conscientious reduction of visual information, however, plays a supporting role in the artist’s primary cause: light.
In Nöger’s art light enters into the painting, illuminating the forms and then returning to the surrounding space that is its source. The paintings media is oil and acrylic on layered canvas and fabric, which trap the light so as to transform it and send it back. Through his singular approach and unique suite of mediums, Nöger is ‘able to set the surface free’ to get the purest light possible. The innovative construction draws viewers in while at the same time requiring them to step back, refocus, and reconsider.
Udo’s works are part of numerous permanent public collections including Metropolitan Museum, NY; The Art Institute of Chicago, IL; Daum Museum of Contemporary Art, Sedalia, MO; Kunsthalle Bielefeld, Bielefeld, Germany; Haus der Kunst, Munich, Germany; Margulies Collection, Miami, FL; Microsoft, Chicago; Microsoft, San Francisco; Red Rock Hotel, Las Vegas, NV; and Bellagio Hotel, Las Vegas, NV.
The Opening Reception will feature an artist lecture led by acclaimed art critic, poet and curator Peter Frank, Associate Editor of Fabrik magazine. Frank has contributed to many publications including the Huffington Post, The Village Voice, and LA Weekly and has written numerous catalogues for major exhibitions. He has worked curatorially with such institutions as the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid, and Documenta in Kassel, Germany, and has taught at several prestigious institutions including the Pratt Institute, Columbia University’s School of the Arts, and University of California campuses in Irvine, Los Angeles, and Santa Barbara.
Founded in 2001, Madison Gallery is committed to representing emerging, mid-career and established international artists whom work in a range of media. Inspired by an earnest dedication and passion for art, the gallery consistently exhibits a high standard of contemporary art. Madison Gallery works closely in building private, corporate and public collections thus placing it amongst the leading contemporary galleries in California. Blouin Modern Painters Magazine has recognized our program for the fourth year in a row as one of the Top 500 galleries worldwide.
UDO NÖGER: LIGHT MAKES WHITE
Light is permanent and yet always different. – (Dr.) Tayfun Belgin
By Peter Frank
Udo Nöger’s visual universe (and for a painter, visuality is entirety, so this means Nöger’s entire universe) is founded on a field of white. Like Eskimo peoples who have myriad different words for “snow,” Nöger knows, and continues to find, endless variations and derivations on the condition of whiteness. But his is not a minimalist exploration of almost-invisible changes; it is a constant enactment of the drama inherent in a realm of his own invention and constant discovery, one where color is not at issue, light itself is. The human eye adjusts, looking here not for spectral relationships – between blue and green, red and violet – but for tonal relationships or even starker contrasts, between presence and absence, surface and depth. Nöger’s white universe is as rich and complex as any rainbow universe, it just depends on different optical conditions.
Perhaps Nöger’s white compositions, painterly but subtly painted, ought to be compared more to sculpture than to painting. To marble, granite, or plaster sculpture, that is, objects hewn from materials whose coloristic qualities are suppressed, to the point of invisibility. To be sure, the ancients decked out even their most classic and austere statues in often-gaudy renditions of clothing, skin, etc. But all that survived the scouring of time was the stone itself, divested of its colorization. Nöger’s paintings, then, are as white as Michelangelo’s figures, not Praxiteles’. But that’s beside the point: what remains at the core of Western three-dimensional art is a tradition of sculpting in pure-white substances, and this artist working in (apparently) two dimensions emulates that purity – or, more accurately, neutrality – with a grace and fervor similar to Bernini’s or Brancusi’s.
But, again, Nöger does not strive even to infer the third dimension; he only exploits its facture in the construction – the literal construction – of what are ultimately paintings, accretions of pigment meant to be viewed frontally. He paints and lets the paint affect the eye as it will, breathing in and out in an atmosphere of white. At the same time, there is a certain inference of depth in Nöger’s canvases. Portions of those canvases have been rendered translucent, allowing us a view through to the other side. Back there it’s a different breath of whiteness, deeper and quieter than the vivid, icy clouds that cling to the painting’s surface. But “surface” does not mean any sort of extruded picture plane on which brushstrokes accumulate sensually. Rather, everything seems to happen behind an even, featureless scrim, a delicate membrane that, our eyes tell us, has collected bursts of frigid light. Nöger’s white pigment seems to radiate an unearthly glow, its milkiness bespeaking something at once frozen, fluid, and ethereal, a vapor in the process of crystallizing.
Nöger achieves his peculiar, haunting, optically improbable effects not simply by limiting his palette to a relatively stringent array of whites, but by applying those white pigments to canvases which are then stacked, at least three at a time, to comprise a single painting. The strategic application of paraffin (i.e., processed mineral) oil provides the canvases, certainly the top ones, with their translucency. Cut-out areas, especially in the interleaved surfaces, further complicate the relationships between the canvases and the visual space, at once shallow and infinite, established between them. Nöger’s paintings are no mere pictures. Rather, even as they present themselves as wall-hung tableaux, their construction establishes them as places of a sort, containers for a dynamic that is limited in its formula but staggeringly varied in its effect.
Nöger, and many who have commented on his work, have stressed that the essence of his painting is light. After all, he limits his palette to white and subjects his compositions to a structural format and a method of applying substances that together modify how light passes through the disparate areas of pigmental accretion and absence. By doing so, Nöger achieves a radiance that escapes its shapes even as it highlights, even haloes, them. He has even called one of his recent series Lichtfluss, or “Lightflow.” (Tellingly, another series is called Gleiches, which translates as “Equivalents,” but can also mean, or at least infer the concept of, “Simultaneities” – pointing at the coincident, and thus combined, “events” occurring on and between the layers of each stacked painting.)
Nöger has spent much of his professional life far from the cloudy skies of his native west-central Germany, preferring the sun-filled atmospheres of Spain, Mallorca, Colorado, Hawaii, south Florida, and now southern California. Indeed, his work shares qualities of both perception and inventive workmanship with the Light-and-Space movement associated with the Golden State. But light is only where Nöger’s art begins; having engaged light and substance in such an elaborate, balletic, multi-tiered interplay, his art culminates in a kind of retinal theater – not an abstract trompe-l’oeil so much as an uncanny dissipation of landscape space, or some kind of space, into pure luminosity, as if Joseph Mallard William Turner were painting a snowstorm or staring into the sun itself.
Compared often to Lucio Fontana, Nöger’s approach – evident no less in his singly-layered works on paper than in his multi-tiered paintings – does not call attention to its materiality, as Fontana’s does, but to its immateriality. In this respect, he can be seen as Turner’s descendant, and Monet’s, and even Rothko’s. And with theirs, Nöger’s activation of the visual field with what seems monochromatic nuance bespeaks a kind of ecstasy of the void – not a descent into the pitch-black absence of color but an ascent into the delirious every-color cacophony of white. The evident impasto of Nöger’s painterly application brings a grounding materiality to what might otherwise seem mirage-like markings, hovering as they do behind a seemingly dematerialized screen. At the same time, his whiteness seems heavenly, a losing of self in the clouds, even a foretaste of the white light that supposedly brings our consciousness to its final apotheosis. But these are poetic postulates; enticing as they are, they pull us away from the immediate experience of the paintings even as they propose a bracing existentiality. Udo Nöger does not begrudge us our metaphors. But neither does he indulge them at the expense of vision itself. Evocative as they are, these hyper-paintings are not meant to be pictures of anything nor evocations of any states of being, but only visual stimuli – equivalents of themselves, nothing more, or less, than the ebb and flow of light through a variety of suspensions. They provoke metaphysical associations not because they should, but because they can. And, primarily, they provoke pure sensation, entirely for its own sake. These are paintings not about light, but of light.